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The Beat Goes On

Bon season brings drums and dance

Names of deceased love ones on slips of paper fluttered in the breeze while Japanese paper lanterns softly lit the dusk. Beneath them, Taiko drums pounded in a dizzying rhythm that reverberated into the ground. Yellow kimono-clad performers beat the great drums, their sticks a blur.

send them on their way,” said Koki Foster, a board member of the temple.

The Buddhist tradition of the Bon dance originates from the story of a disciple of Buddha. When he found out through his supernatural vision that his deceased mother was suffering in the realm of the “hungry ghosts,” he asked the Buddha how he could relieve his mother of her torment. The holy man told him make offerings to the monks who had just completed their summer retreat. The disciple did this, and his mother was released from the realm of the hungry ghosts. He danced with joy, and that dance became known as the Bon dance.

The Molokai temple, built by plantation workers, hosts a variety of weekly and seasonal events, including mochi pounding at New Year’s, meditation sessions, aikido classes and the Bon Festival, according to Foster.

“It keeps alive Japanese cultural aspects on Molokai,” she said.


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